SVHE Discussion of possible name change

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The SVHE Board of Directors has decided to initiate a discussion of a possible name change for the Society.  Generally speaking, those who favor such a change feel that the word “values” (in The Society for Values in Higher Education) connotes a narrow and restrictive set of conventional values such as might imply an exclusively conservative and/or religious agenda.  Because the Society welcomes members from a variety of political backgrounds, they feel the present name is misleading.  While we have no scientific polling on the issue, we do have many years of anecdotal evidence that the name may not always convey accurately the mission and goals of the Society.


All parties to this discussion realize that this is not a decision to be made lightly.  If the Society’s name is to be changed, it will require an extended conversation and broad support from the membership.  As a first step in this conversation, we are soliciting your opinions: Do you believe that we should change the Society’s name? If so, what kind of word or phrase might provide an acceptable substitute for “values” in our name (The Society for [?] in Higher Education) or do you have suggestions for a more substantial change in the name?


  1. [Comment originally posted by Ellen Maher] “I’ve taken the survey, but let me just note a few issues for discussion here:
    First, though it may be a losing battle, I hate to surrender the term “values” to conservatives who want to narrow its meaning to their particular priorities. At least a part of me wants to hold onto that word and make clear that it includes values such as inclusiveness, justice, open inquiry, and so on.
    Second, even though our mission statement and description emphasize that we are open to all perspectives, at present the Fellows are largely, if not exclusively, of a liberal persuasion. There was a time early in my forty years’ membership that we had some notable conservatives among us, but unless I am greatly mistaken, that is no longer true, and that’s unlikely to change, especially after a name change that more accurately reflects that reality.
    Third, the last time changing our name came up for discussion, it was the “higher education” part that was at issue. While we do focus our projects on higher education matters, many of the present Fellows are professionals in other fields (law, medicine, K-12 education, the arts, and others). If we decide on a name change, we might want to address that fact as well.”

  2. A survey of our last FM attendees showed that a small percentage of our attendees identified as conservative–so we are not strictly liberal, though most might identify this way.
    Second, I’d like to encourage us to hold onto something in our name that would suggest we are an academic society. Otherwise I am most open to looking for a name to fit our 21st century purposes.

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